8 Public Speaking Body Language Mistakes
A speech is a great moment to turn your ideas into reality.
Not only does your idea impact you.
It has the ability to impact many others.
That’s how public speaking should be viewed.
A dance between the speaker and the audience.
Despite the magical moment, there are some body language quirks to avoid.
These quirks are public speaking mistakes that can distract from your message.
In this blog, I’m going to discuss some obvious public speaking mistakes along with some not-so-obvious mistakes.
The body is an intrument.
Learn to play it.
1. Trying to Make Eye Contact with Everyone
Trying to look at everyone causes the speaker to overthink.
They begin thinking:
‘I looked at Tommy, Sue, Ricky…. Bobby? Oh no, did I look at Bobby??’
Then the speaker focuses more on Bobby than their speech.
It’s better to segment the audience into 3.
- Left, middle, and right.
Find the most engaged audience member from each section.
Then talk to them.
Transition among the 3.
Add in more people as needed.
Talk to individuals.
Not a crowd.
2. Speaker’s Back
One of the most embarrassing moments during my Toastmasters journey was in my icebreaker speech.
This is the first speech a member gives after they join the club.
The talk for the most part was well received.
However, the problem was that my back was facing one side of the audience the entire time!
At first, I didn’t understand what the big deal was.
Until, one day, I sat in the same section that I accidentally ignored.
The speaker of the event ignored my section for the entire speech.
I saw the speaker’s back the entire time.
Not a pleasant feeling.
Segmenting the audience into 3:
- Left, middle, and right.
Turns the audience into discrete chunks versus just a random blob.
This allows the speaker to be much more aware to give love to all segments.
3. Moving Hands too Much
This is a tough problem to have because it’s highly subjective.
It’s hard to exactly put into percentages how much hand moving is acceptable.
To help clean up hand movements, imagine there is a box that is in front of your torso.
Mainly, keep the hands in that box.
And leave when you are making a big point.
The torso box is like training wheels.
It helps polish up the speaker in the beginning stages.
Until polished hand gestures are all the speaker knows.
4. Swaying from Leg to Leg
The body is a physical representation of the internal world.
When a speaker is nervous, the body gets jittery.
It gets jittery in many ways.
One way is by swaying from leg to leg.
Although this feels highly therapeutic for the speaker, it is highly distracting for the audience.
It gets them focusing more on you than the speech.
The fix is to hold still.
Assume you are a powerful tree.
Not a flimsy bag floating in the wind.
5. Not Dressing Up
‘Yo, this article is supposed to talk about body language, not clothes!’
If you were to ask me, clothes are a part of body language.
With speech anxiety, there are certain things that you can control and certain things you cannot control.
One thing a speaker cannot control is what the audience thinks of them.
I’ve seen speakers give great speeches.
But the audience didn’t like them because they fundamentally disagreed with their idea.
One thing a speaker can control is their wardrobe.
Polish the shoes too.
Ironically, this makes the audience like you more.
They are like, ‘whoa, who is this person? They took this occasion seriously.’
To take power over speech anxiety:
Amplify what you can control and undermine what you can’t control.
6. Hiding Palms
Humans trust humans whose palms they can see.
‘Any idea why that is?’
I think it’s primal.
My theory is that for our ancient ancestors, visible palms meant that others were not hiding any weapons.
Which built trust quicker.
With that being said, not all palm gestures are created equal.
Pointing is a sharp move that resembles a knife.
- Open palms
Open palms gently invite the audience in.
7. Dragging Feet
In Toastmasters, one of the features is where the audience claps when the speaker is walking on stage.
And they don’t stop clapping till the speaker reaches the stage!
So, if a speaker is walking slow, then the audience is going to be clapping for a long time.
The long clapping will make the speaker aware if they are dragging their feet.
Why is this important?
It’s because it shows how important the buildup is.
When entering the public speaking stage, walk like you got a billion-dollar check to pick up after the talk.
Just like the morning routine influences the rest of the day.
The pre-walk influences the rest of the speech.
8. Stone Face
One common issue is the stone face.
- This is the expressionless face.
This type of face often happens when the speaker is:
- Disinterested in the talk.
- Completely unaware.
- Normally has a stiff face.
A quick fix for this is to stretch your face.
You can stretch your face by getting your fingers and gently massaging your face in circular motions (no poking or anything).
Or try a slow, wide, yawn.
Like you’re in the most boring class ever.
If stretching or yawning seems like too much work, just hold a smile or smirk before getting on stage.
That’ll lead to more of an animated look.
Book to Dominate Public Speaking
A speech is a great occasion to:
- Entertain the audience.
- Showcase your expertise.
- Teach others.
- Make a change.
Allow the idea to be central by minimizing the public speaking mistakes.
Occasionally, these quirks are fine.
It only becomes an issue when the quirks pile up.
For more practical insights to improve your public speaking skills, be sure to check out:
This book will teach you how to:
- Manage speech anxiety.
- Practice your speech.
- Improve your body language.
- And captivate the audience on speech day.